3 Tips on Proper Use of Images and Photos

The other day while minding my own business at my desk I overheard a fascinating conversation. One of the leaders in our organization was looking to utilize a highly recognizable trademarked and copyright protected image and logo. I could hear the uncertainty in his voice as he was curious to the proper use of the photo. He was asking another department head regarding his experience in use of this material. I heard more uncertainty in both of the parties discussion, one was a coordinator for programming and the other is a web designer, marketer. Of the two, I would have thought they would have erred on the side of caution when wanting to use this image for a blog post. Their decision was anything if not scary; they opted to use the photo because they indicated our organization was “too small to be considered for a lawsuit.” Suddenly my adrenaline was pumping with anxiety at their lack of caution to the proper use of images, photos and pictures in blog posts, public material and advertising.

Google images has made seeking out photo’s one of the easiest tools we can use today. Google, no less, has  replaced encyclopedia’s, basic knowledge and higher learning. However, the evolution of Google and the easy access to various images posted on the web does not give anyone and everyone carte blanche to utilize photos so readily and easily for Facebook posts, blog posts and other media shares. These photos belong to someone, some company and or organization that owns the intellectual rights.

Imagine if someone hacked your hard-drive or decided to help themselves to your Facebook photos, took those photos and shared them as marketing material to make money. Imagine your fury that someone took your family photos and used them as a black and white still for a picture frame cover in a large box store. All the while, you are not reaping the rewards for rights to the photo. You would consider this theft.

Even though large corporations, organizations and conglomerations exist to have an endless supply of money, resources and they might never miss the photo, the principle of the fact remains that improper use could be considered theft. Even if you think your blog is small, unnoticed and imaginary in the sea of sites, blogs and landing pages in the world, someone, somewhere might notice. Are you willing to risk being sued for improper use and attribution for a photo?

attribution, creative commonsHere are some tips to keep in mind when using photos from the web:

  • Did you create the graphic and or take the photo?

If you did, then make sure that you protect your works and credits. Slap on a copyright for your works. The process is far from difficult and most photo services when you upload your works (like Google Picasa, Flickr, etc) have an attribution option where you can add notations such as a copyright. Photo editing software such as PhotoShop and GIMP also offer watermark options where you can place your copyright. While this is not a guaranteed protection, this does ensure you did your due diligence to protect your works, especially when you register them as such.

  • Is the photo copyright protected? Is the photo public domain? Is the photo protected under attribution license?

While this is a lot to take in, the larger photo sites (Flickr, Picasa, Wikimedia Commons) fully detail and explain the differences in all these types of available photos. As mentioned in my scenario above, my co-workers were looking to use a Marvel Avengers logo. This was a huge NO NO without proper consent, permission and attribution. I sent them an email and advised them that in order to use the logo and trademark of Marvel Comics for the logo they would need to contact the organization to ask for use, credit and attribute the photo that they have permission from Marvel for use. By not doing so creates the opportunity for unnecessary risks and lawsuits that could have been avoided if handled properly.

  • Do you need to use a specific photo or can you get your message across with a free domain photo?

Sometimes we purely want to use the photo because of aesthetics, but really we can say the same thing or put across the same message with a photo that requires no attribution. If you have the funds in your budget to purchase a photo, do so and be sure you use the same attribution and crediting process as outlined in the purchase agreement. Purchasing photos from organizations like ShutterStock allow you use of royalty free photos that reduce your risk by just taking photos directly from Google images. Right click and save through Google images can open a can of worms for lawsuits and DMCA notices. Know what the symbols means with each photo, see where the photo originated and who owns the rights if any.

Images are a great way to portray our image, our brand and to tell a story. We all want that advantage when marketing ourselves, our brand, our blog. We take great pride in the effort and work we put into the fruits of our labor; all artists feel this way and should be respected as such. When putting forth that effort take the extra time to do the job right. Protect your investment and your asset. Protect your images, your blog and your reputation. Respect the rights of others who also share in the same endeavor.

Next time you are thinking of using a photo and one you fell in love with on Google images, think about the artist and owner of that image and or work. Think about the proper use of their image and if you have the right to reproduce that work even if you think your blog is only a speck in the pixelated world of the internet. Do your research, be respectful, and understand how using photos can greatly impact your reputational risk and or infringe on someone’s intellectual rights as an artist.

*Written by Karie Herring, Owner and Author of The Five Fish.

You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as Kariewithak.

50 Replies to “3 Tips on Proper Use of Images and Photos”

  1. Excellent post. This comes in to question so often. I know I used to be a violator but in the years of blogging have learned the difference but need to be reminded because sometimes when I’m lacking time, energy, or just being pure lazy I might make a sneak attack which is so WRONG!

  2. good tips and pointers,,im not a very good photo taker,but my husband does really good so i let him have that job

  3. This post was so helpful in understanding use of photos, i learned some of which i didn’t even know and was aware of. I think it is a great idea to copyright your photos which I sometimes like to watermark mine, depending on the image i am posting, to me it is a great idea.

  4. I’ve learned from experience that there is no such thing as a company that is “too small” to be sued. When I worked for a print marketer, they printed several thousand copies of a pretty well-known painting and, yes, they were sued. It wasn’t millions, only a few thousand, and someone who received it contacted the Chicago Art Institute. Purchasing images is so easy now and really not over the top expensive either. Thank-you for this informative article. :)

  5. This is very interesting. I try to find where a photo comes from when I post to facebook and give a link and credits to the photo. I don’t know if this is a good thing, but I try to always give credit. If I see a copyright symbol on the pic, I do not use that particular pic.

  6. This is so try. People should always be cautious of what they are doing. It could end up with big problems. It is not worth the risk

  7. This post was definitely helpful to me, I am always learning how to take a better picture.. I use to be good when I was younger but have not used a camera in a long time, so these tips will hlep me..

  8. This is very important information. People really have to be careful using someone elses photos. Thank you for sharing this article

  9. An excellent post filled with great informavtion & tips. Thank you for sharing.info I will keep in mind.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  10. These are great tips and something to surely think about when using other peoples images or photos off the internet or any where for that matter.

  11. hi, i’ve been contemplating beginning a blog, but this is another area i know so little about. i never thought about going any further than ‘clip art’, but this is good info to know!

  12. Excellent tutorial on how to stay legal as far as photos go. I’ve not seen those symbols before – maybe I haven’t looked carefully. I’ll look out for them in the future.

  13. I love Pinterest but I always wondered about the copyright laws on that site. I never could figure out how they got away with people posting so many images from other people’s work. I pinned many photos or art and travel and no one every said anything to me.

  14. I know a lot of artists that do get upset if their photos are used without permission. Most of the times if you ask they will allow you but I don’t think people have a clue about this subject.

  15. I don’t blog but slowly realizing how many responsibilities come along with it. I used to be a paralegal years ago, so I can appreciate the rules and laws. I learned some new terms today! Thanks!

  16. Wow, I did not realize that there were so many rules involved. All of this was very interesting. Now I will be on the lookout for all those symbols.

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